I picked up an interesting book recently, The Elements of Taste, by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky, where they’ve divided the elements into tastes that push, tastes that pull, taste platforms, tastes that punctuate and taste as narratives. A very interesting take on flavor and it’s constituent elements, even if one choose to disagree with some of their thoughts.
But first, the subject of this article, Garage Inc. in Hauz Khas Village, who’ve been around for a little less than a year now. When you think about it, there’s really no other place like Hauz Khas Village, in terms of it’s affinity to quirky concepts, different (read hatke) food & cuisine and so on. True, I’ve never been a fan of the general culture that prevails and am still so, but from a restaurateur’s point of view, Hauz Khas Village is probably the easiest and safest canvas to play with the elements of their individual palettes; loads of footfalls the general demographic usually in their ideal customer profiles combined with the general perception of food in the area means Hauz Khas Village is conducive to business. Of course, my pet peeve are those establishments who choose not to serve the natives as well as they would expats, but then I guess that’s a business model. In fact, the representative of one of these stellar establishments who flanks Garage Inc., told me (on asking) on my way out that Garage Inc. has shut down. I guess that’s a business model too.
I couldn’t see anything very mechanical about Garage Inc. on entering; the decor and ambiance is generally laid back, easy on the senses and quite low on starched snootiness. If you think about it, quite a few restaurants in the city choose to go with a holier-than-thou attitude, trying to look down their nose at customers in an attempt perhaps to convey there’s something out of the ordinary about them. Not Garage Inc.; the service is friendly, perhaps a little rough around the edges, but friendly nonetheless, which aids the general thought process behind the name and the decor – come, sit back, eat, drink and relax. So, don’t go expecting greasy overalls or auto-themed decor; that’ll throw a spanner in the works. heh; lousy pun, but I enjoyed that one.
I started with a Tuna and Bean Salad (265), a dish I haven’t seen before. Served layered and deconstructed, it had ice berg lettuce, kidney beans (yeah, those beans), tomatoes, spring onions, lettuce, parsley, bell peppers and wilted spinach alongside chunks of tuna. Here’s the thing, as lovely as the salad was, with implicit crunch (the kind you get from salad leaves) and creamy textures, I added a dash of lemon (acid) and found flavors blossoming within. It’s not like they weren’t there; they just needed to be made obvious. This is where a Chef-Owner (without the overhead) really helps. She and I were able to have a chat about the whole concept, without being attached to our own opinions and spent the major part of the afternoon swapping culinary notes on or about food. I also thought an element on explicit crunch, such as crushed peanuts or blanched French beans may have helped the salad become a little more interesting. Moving on to Chili Fried Pork (300), I found myself trying to stare down a platter of soft, mildly batter fried, uneven chunks of pork tossed with a barbecue sauce and parsley, served with creamy dressings (ranch?) and salsa. The pork won. Now, here was a truly flavor-texture deconstructed platter. The pork was soft, spicy and flavorful on it’s own. Crunch could be added by skewering bits of succulent bell peppers, creamy overtones easily attained by dunking the lot into the little pot of dressing and acid obtained by the addition of salsa. I thought some smoke could have helped the dish along.
A beefy Grease Burger (365) came and went without being noticed much, though the sheer size of my Harley’s Pork Chop (385) dominated the table. Coated as it was with a deglazed sauce and accompanied by a rich, meaty brown sauce, this pork chop would have been the high point of the meal had it been a little meatier and the Jambalaya (365, chicken) not around. Rice is at once, both forgiving and unforgiving. Your dish is irrevocably screwed if, the rice is overcooked or undercooked, the seasoning disproportionate, the ratio of vegetables/meats to rice unbalanced and the ratio of flavors miscalculated. The Jambalaya at Garage Inc. appeared to be somewhere in between the Creole and Louisiana styles of cooking; a mongrel if you will. As mongrels usually go however, as opposed to thoroughbreds, this was completely delicious and loyal to the concept of a Jambalaya. Cliched as that sounds, I have no other way of succinctly conveying how well balanced the flavors were, how perfect the tangy quotient, drawing out the rest of the flavors, how well proportioned the rice was to the chicken and vegetables, how well managed the ratio of crunch to rice… now I’m babbling, but you get the idea.
*composes himself* I suggest a visit to Garage Inc. A word of advice; wear your tees loose and jeans with braces not belts.